Success Redefined

It’s pretty easy to see that we idolize success in America. Watch ESPN, American Idol, The Apprentice, or any other show/channel that holds those who reach a certain level of success higher than others.

What I’d offer is this: This idol is killing us. It’s ruining our relationship with God and it is most certainly not helping our future children. Our children grow up believing that success means winning championships, Grammys or Oscars, when biblically, success is doing what God tells you to do. His opinion is the only one that matters.

The idea for this post comes from the recent comments made by Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, who said that those in the black community reinforce stereotypes when they fail to have a mastery of the English language and hold a job, and that, in some part, it’s due to holding up the “American Dream” as what Jay-Z and Lebron have accomplished, while forgetting that most people will never come close to that level of success.

It got me thinking about what I would tell my children if they told me they wanted to pursue a career in sports, music or movies, or any form of entertainment.

On one hand, I can’t just crush their dreams with, “You just can’t do that.” Because the reality is, there’s a chance they DO make it. Before he was a solid collegiate starter, 6th round draft pick, and the steal of all steals in the NFL draft, Tom Brady was probably a stereotypical high school kid that cared about girls, friends and getting home in type to watch SportsCenter before bed. Now he’s on SportsCenter and watches his plays from his luxury home with his supermodel wife (unless they broke up–can’t keep up with celebrity marriages anymore). But that is, as Stephen A. said, “a fantasy turned reality.” That’s one in a billion. But my kid (however lacking his dad may be in athletic skill) could be the next great NFL QB. Is that a slim chance? Oh yeah…but, it’s a chance.

But on the other hand, my kid most likely won’t be a QB, or a rock star, or a famous actor or actress or supermodel. If that’s God’s plan for their life, awesome. But if it’s not, they join the countless others whose “dreams” were crushed because they weren’t one of the 10,000 professional athletes in America. And the problem lies therein. We need to rethink our dreams and our definition of success.

What if I, and my wife, and my kids, dreamed of trusting in God in such a way that we gave Him 100% in all things without hesitation? What if our definition of success was trusting in God to be all that He’s promised to be, being men, women and kids of faith, who trusted in Christ’s promise to save sinners and lead them in holiness and joy in God, to the life we were made to live, for God’s glory?

So I’ll tell my children the truth. That their mom and dad will support them in whatever they choose to do. That they may very well be the next great athlete or musician. But I must also warn them. Warn them that that’s a dream that may never become a reality, and as such, isn’t worth giving up what’s truly real, what’s truly worth it, namely, a relationship with God. But it also means to not become so focused on a prize that most people don’t attain that you throw away education, becoming a dumb jock who doesn’t know how to communicate, or throwing away friends and a family that money can’t buy.

We don’t need our dreams crushed. We need new dreams. We need dreams centered on the “who,” not the “what.” If God calls you to be the next great athlete, cool. If God calls you to manage a supermarket for 50 years, do it for the glory of God. I want to be the best at what I do because I have a God who always gives me His best. And I want the same for my kids, no matter what they do with their lives.

And I’ll give them examples. Hopefully, my own life, and their mother’s life, will be an example. But I can point them to my grandfather, who worked hard to send three kids to college even though he never got that chance. I’ll them of their grandmother, my mother, who, faced with seemingly impossible circumstances, raised me by herself and, instead of planning for retirement, worked (still currently works) her tail off to provide for me and to send me to school and give me a home. People like her are just as successful as Barack Obama, Tom Brady and Donald Trump, just in different ways. The man that works sun-up to sun-down and comes home and gives his wife and kids 100% is just as successful as Jay-Z and Brad Pitt if he does what he does for the glory of God.

Success is trusting and following God, no matter what you do. We preach Christ’s sufficiency, the providence of God in all things, and as such, we live for His glory.

That’s success. Let’s go get it.

Lord, may we remember that success is honoring you. May we dream of doing what You call us to do.

God bless,
Neal E.

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